Crowdsourcing Cape Breton stories

Ashley McKenzie and Nelson MacDonald need help finishing their latest movie about New Waterford. Their first two shorts, “Rhonda’s Party” (2010) and “When You Sleep” (2012), achieved exceptional success, screening to widespread praise at the Toronto International Film Festival and Cannes, as well as at festivals in Montreal, Stockholm, Whistler, and St. John’s. Along the way, they picked up half a dozen industry awards, including the top prize in CBC’s Short Film Faceoff.

AshleyDespite these early triumphs, the pair have had to turn to crowdsourcing to raise the last few dollars needed to finish post-production on their latest film, “Stray,” the story of a lonely New Waterford girl who tries to befriend a homeless cat.

They wouldn’t need this money if they had taken the expedient route of filming in Halifax. But director Ashley and producer Nelson are committed to telling Cape Breton stories in an authentic way. By paying the extra transportation and crew costs to film here, they were able to set scenes in magnificent post-industrial settings that just aren’t available anywhere else. (Lord knows how Nelson wheedled permission to shoot in some of these locations.)

We’re always bemoning the exodus of talented young people from Nova Scotia. Ashley and Nelson could easily flourish in a major film center, but they choose instead to stay here and tell our stories. We’ve been friends for years, and I can’t think of any two people who work harder, or bring greater intelligence and dedication to their craft.

Isn’t that something we should support?

With just 48 hours to go, their Indiegogo crowd-sourcing campaign is about $1,600 shy of the goal needed to finish “Stray.” You can contribute here.

Nova Scotia from space

A view of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and parts of Maine and Quebec, taken from the International Space Station. Click the image for a larger version.

The bright spot at the left side is Montreal Quebec City;* that on the middle right is Halifax. Other bright spots include (left to right) Bangor, Saint John, Moncton, and Charlottetown. Close inspection reveals Truro, New Glasgow, Antigonish, Port Hawkesbury, and Sydney. The St. Lawrence River appears as a string of lights heading northeast from Montreal, and the Gaspe Peninsula is outlined in light. I believe the aurora borealis accounts for the greenish hue on the horizon.

A Contrarian reader supplied the image without identifying information, and I’ve been unable to pin down its source precisely. Based on a similar image taken a few hundred miles to the southwest however, I believe it was taken on January 29 by Expedition 30, the current crew of the International Space Station.

H/T: Shine boy.

*[Correction] Contrarian reader Bill Swan thinks the light blob on the left is Quebec City, not Montreal. He’s probably right.

The man who lived on his bike

French born Guillaume Blanchet, now working as a copywriter for the Montreal advertising agency Bleublancrouge, rode his bike through the friendly streets of Montreal for 382 days, while filming himself from the handlebars, with this whimsical result:

My father is 64 years old. He’s been riding his bike more than 120,000 km. And he keeps going. I dedicate this film to him.

More on Guillaume here and here.

Biking made easy in Montreal

One of more than 300 self-service Bixi bike rental stations in Montreal.

From April to November 30, the city will rent you a sturdy, well maintained, three-speed bike for $5 a day (or $28 for 30 days; $79 for a full year). A swipe of your credit card produces a five digit code to unlock one of the 5,000 available bikes; Return your bike within 30 minutes to one of the ubiquitous rental stands and there is no charge. It is a fast, easy, practical way to get around this bustling city, and the Bixi bikes are everywhere.

The city-owed system recently expanded to Washington, DC, and Arlington, VA. Could Halifax or Sydney get in on the action? We have a few drawbacks compared to Montreal:

  • Smaller population
  • Less density
  • More hills
  • Shorter biking season
  • Helmet laws
  • Vastly fewer bike lanes.
  • Montreal has 502 km. of bike lanes and paths, and recently announced plans to spend $10 million installing another 50 km.

    Food for thought.